Petting parties abound in college

Teens of the 20's invented dating. It was a more flexible way of meeting and seeing each other that was not as supervised as it had been in the past. Previously, boys had to be courting a girl, they had to be committed, and girls had to be engaged to them in order to go out with them. Dating permitted people to see each other, discover each other without proclaiming an intent to marry. Petting was of course a popular and well received pastime for the youth. It allowed a girl to have erotic interaction without endangering herself with an unwanted or out of wedlock child. Petting could mean kisses or fondling, but it stopped just short of intercourse, and while parents equated petting with fornication, teenagers did not, and their peer group would still accept them and respect them. Intimacy and eroticism was explored within the confines of a majority of virginal women.

Off with her clothes. In 1920 skirts were nine inches off the ground. By 1927, they were up to the knee. It wasn't just the long skirts that were done away with, it was also the undergarments; garters, petticoats, and corsets were no longer appropriate for the free wheeling times. Girls needed to be able to move, to dance, to swing and sway. Stockings were rolled, and the sheerer the better. Legs were more exposed than ever before, and freedom from restrictive underwear gave women more mobility and more stamina. Now they could run and eat without a shortness of breath caused by a corset mutilating their internal organs.

Cosmetics came out of the whorehouse and into the mainstream. Respectable women now wore rouge and powder, and in doing so, claimed themselves as sexual, attractive beings without sacrificing their good name. They could change their appearance subtly or drastically. Most opted to enhance their lips into that oh, so, charming cupid's bow pout. It was not simply for loose women, but for all women in every age group. By 1929, women were using an average of a pound of powder a year on their faces.

Bobbing one's hair was a symbol of freedom. Women claimed the right's of men. No longer would they have to bind their hair back and control it. Short was daring and sexy and created a whole new attitude that went far beyond a hairstyle.

Song of the times

Flappers are we
Flappers are we
Flappers and fly and free.
Never too slow
All on the go
Petting parties with the smarties.
Dizzy with dangerous glee
Puritans knock us
Because the way we're clad.
Preachers all mock us
Because we're not bad.
Most flippant young flappers are we!

from Tea for Two in the musical No, No, Nanette
written by Vincent Youmans

notable quotes from notable women

"She sat enthroned on a window-seat, her gorgeous coat spread out around her like the background of a painting, her head tilted sideways - and without any visible effort whatever made a dozen blaseÇ young collegians her slaves. Her first faint lazy smile from the doorway had caught them, and the tentacles of her beauty and personality held them fast."
Katharine Brush's Glitter

"So we came to the Ritz hotel and the Ritz Hotel was devine. Because when a girl can sit in a delightful bar and have delicious champagne cocktails and look at all the important French people in Paris, I think it is devine."
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

"In spring the garden urns, casually filled with wind-blown plants, were as gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and brightness of the day were as strange as the tumult and chaos of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible."
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

For more info on the 1920's:
Fass, Paula S.,The Damned and the Beautiful:American Youth in the 1920's New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1977.
Milford, Nancy, Zelda:A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., Zelda Fitzgerald: The Collected Writings. New York: Charles Scribner, 1991.
Wiser, William, The Great Good Place: American Expatriate Women In Paris. W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.
Stenn, David, Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Dillon, Millicent, After Egypt: Isadora Duncan & Mary Cassat. New York: Dutton, 1990.
Blum, Stella, Everyday Fashions of the Twenties. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1981.

CREDITS: compiled by L.R.
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